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Nordic summer school with focus on girl studies

What norms does Nordic gender equality policy give rise to and how do they affect various groups of young women? This is one of the questions addressed in the field of Nordic girl studies. Last Friday marked the end of a summer school in Helsinki titled Producing Girlish Knowledge. Nordic Summer School on Creative Methods in Girlhood Studies and Girl Work. Nordic Information on Gender talked to Bodil Formark and Aino Tormulainen, who arranged the event.

Bodil Formark, PhD in history and coordinator for FlickForsk! at Umeå University.
 Bodil Formark, PhD in history and coordinator for FlickForsk! at Umeå University.

So there is a field called girl studies. What is it?

– The field emerged in the 1970s when it became apparent that girls were largely neglected in other research. Gender researchers focused on adult women, and when youth cultures were studied, there tended to be a focus on male-oriented phenomena like the punk subculture. Today researchers in the field explore a wide range of issues from a wide range of perspectives, says Bodil Formark.

Can you say something about the field in a Nordic perspective?

– One example of what Nordic researchers have studied is the implications for girls of having to relate to gender equality as a type of Nordic ideal at the same time as structural injustices remain. Gender equality is something that has created, and continues to create, normative ideals and hierarchies between different ways of being a girl. It’s probably difficult to grow up in the Nordic region without having to deal with the idea of gender equality in one way or another. The implications of this and how it affects different groups of young women in the Nordic countries are issues we’re hoping to give more attention to in the future, says Bodil Formark.

Why did you arrange a Nordic summer school on girl studies?

Aino Tormulainen, PhD Cultural Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Eastern Finland.
 Aino Tormulainen, PhD in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Eastern Finland.

– The idea was to initiate a dialogue and encourage reflection around the methods used in the field. How is the research done? How can the methods be developed further? Colleagues in both Finland and Sweden had been talking for years about arranging a summer school focusing on research methods. We have thought of it as a way to develop both the dialogue around young femininity and the cooperation between the two national networks, says Bodil Formark and Aino Tormulainen, who serve as coordinators of the Finnish and Swedish research networks.

Why does the summer school target not only researchers but also artists and professionals working with young girls?

– We believe that Nordic researchers need to learn more about how these other groups work with for example young femininity and girlishness. It’s also about finding methods to make us academics better at getting involved and collaborate with people in other sectors. What knowledge do we need? Are we doing the right things?

Updated 16 April 2020